The secret strengths of the independent retailer
TKC’s commercial director, Anjum Ahmed, on why independents must continue to make the most of the exceptional levels of customer service they offer as the nationals try to woo cash-strapped consumers with tempting discounts
Having spent over two decades with Nobia, owner of Magnet, in various roles including commercial director and marketing director, my move to TKC has been an eye-opening introduction to the large part of the market served by kitchen independents.
In a tightening market, the nationals can be seen as a threat, flexing their super-tanker size muscles and tempting customers with seemingly large discounts. But my time so far in this sector has highlighted to me many points of difference where independents can play to their strengths, harnessing the flexibility that a national simply can’t offer. Here are some of them:
Independent kitchen retailers demonstrate an unparalleled ability to curate an extensive range of products, catering to diverse customer preferences. Their offerings often include unique, bespoke and artisanal designs that are not commonly found in national chains.
CUSTOMISATION AND FLEXIBILITY:
Independent retailers excel in providing tailored solutions to customers and it’s why they have performed well in recent years, especially in the post-pandemic kitchen boom. They possess the agility to adapt their products and services to meet individual requirements, ensuring a truly personalised experience. This is something the nationals struggle with.
ATTENTION TO DETAIL:
By placing a strong emphasis on customer satisfaction, independent retailers pride themselves on their meticulous attention to detail. They prioritise building strong relationships with customers, providing attentive service from initial consultation through installation and beyond.
VALUE FOR MONEY:
Independent kitchen retailers frequently offer competitive pricing structures while maintaining the highest quality standards. Their ability to use a wide supply base, with differing price positions, allows them to pass on cost savings to customers without compromising on product excellence.
Independent retailers often have deep-rooted connections within the local community, fostering trust and loyalty. They possess an in-depth understanding of regional tastes, lifestyles and architectural styles, enabling them to offer tailored solutions that resonate with their clientele.
The KBB market is facing ongoing challenges with lower footfall as the cost of living continues to bite and higher interest rates impact. What can be done?
Unlike the nationals, where the product offer can be set in stone, most independents have access to a number of suppliers, giving them creative flexibility to tailor a package suited to their customers’ needs.
When footfall is low it can sometimes be tempting to upsell and generate higher sales values from each opportunity. While this can work, it can lead to potential customers being driven to nationals with
their price-pointed promotional offers. By utilising a wide and trusted supply base with differing price positions, independents can offer competitive pricing structures to customers without compromising on product excellence or quality standards.
Think about your supply base and how each supplier from frontals, cabinets, worktops, sinks, taps and appliances can be grouped to serve the different customer types you are seeing. In a tight market, it’s best to ensure your net is not cast too narrowly. Make sure all your bases are covered in a profitable way. Remember, when volumes are down, the nationals look at the independent sector as an opportunity to gain some lost volume.
Package your offering in good, better, best. You are selling your customer’s dream kitchen, don’t let them feel they are compromising when they are choosing based on their budget. If they can’t afford what you have shown them right now, they have a good reason to just delay their project. Don’t let them do that – steer them to other alternatives in your product armoury.
What shines most to me about this sector is the exemplary levels of service offered by independents, the high degree of knowledge, the closeness to the fitter and the ability to go the extra mile.
Having experienced the national and independent kitchen retail sectors first-hand, it’s evident that independents are leading the way in providing a
customer-centric approach. Your ability to adapt and deliver exceptional service sets you apart. As the retail landscape evolves – long may that continue.